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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2003 Dec;60(12):2575-85.

Programmed cell clearance.

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Division of Toxicology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 13, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Apoptosis, a physiological process of self-annihilation, is essential during development and for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that govern this mode of cellular demise; however, the subsequent recognition and removal of apoptotic corpses by neighboring phagocytes has received less attention. Nevertheless, macrophage engulfment of apoptotic cells is known to be important in the remodeling of tissues, and contributes to the resolution of inflammation through the removal of effete cells prior to the release of noxious cellular constituents. Moreover, apoptotic cells are a potential source of self-antigens, and clearance of cell corpses is thought to preclude the induction of autoimmune responses. The view is thus emerging that tissue homeostasis is dependent not only on the balance between mitosis and apoptosis, but also on the rate of apoptosis versus that of cell clearance. This review aims to discuss the mechanisms and consequences of macrophage recognition and disposal of apoptotic cells, a process which will be referred to as programmed cell clearance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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